Tension and release is the name of the game when it comes to soloing on your guitar. A solo that lacks this will have no appeal to you, or your audience. It will be dull, boring, and lifeless. Chords are a great way to create this tension and release providing a nice contrast with the single note lines you play.
A big frustration for me in the early days of my acoustic playing was soloing. I was fine as far as soloing on the electric guitar was concerned, but when it came to the acoustic I just couldn't seem to make anything sound good. This was the case for some time until I eventually realised that nothing was going to change unless I did something different. Kind of obvious, but it's amazing how you'll keep taking the same approach over and over again expecting different results.
I discovered that just simply playing notes for the sake of playing notes was not going to get me very far regarding my acoustic guitar soloing. Rather, I would need some tools, so to speak, to help make my solos sound better. If all you have are notes but no tools to make these notes sound great, then you are left with very little to create a great sounding solo.
Fragmented ChordsOne of the many tools you can use in your acoustic solos to add a bit of spice are chords. This is not obvious to most guitar players because chords are generally only thought of in a rhythm sense. However chords will also sound great in your soloing, adding some really nice contrast and texture to the single note lines you play.
Your soloing on the acoustic will take on a new life with just this one element, when used well, leading to you feeling so much more confident when it's time to rip out a solo on the old acoustic.
It's important to note that we are not talking about full chord shapes like the ones you use in the progressions of the songs you play such as bar chords and open chords. At least not in their usual form. These would be much too big and awkward to use in your solos. What we are talking about here are chord fragments.
When you take a larger chord form, such as a bar chord, and break it up into smaller pieces, these are known as fragments of that chord. You basically end up with several smaller chord shapes to work with instead of one large one. A great way to think about and organise these fragments, so that they are under your fingers anytime you wish to use them, is to view the larger chord as the "parent" and the smaller fragments you break that chord into as the "children." All you'll need to know is which children belong to which parent. More about this shortly.
How to Give Your Soloing a Makeover Using Chord FragmentsLet me show you exactly how you can go about adding chord fragments to your solo lines, bringing new life to them.
Here is a typical 4 bar excerpt from a solo:
There is nothing wrong with how this sounds, however it could sound a lot better by adding some chord fragments like this:
The difference in the sound of the example above compared to the first should be obvious. There is a lot more depth and texture to the solo when chord fragments are used.
You will notice that several times the fragments used in the solo are approached a fret above or below from where that fragment is. There is also an instance in the 4th bar where the fragment is approached chromatically (one fret at a time) from below.
This is just one of many creative ways you can use chord fragments to spice up your solo lines on the acoustic guitar. They alone will bring a whole new dimension to your acoustic guitar soloing.
Parents and Their Children (Sorting Out Your Chord Fragments)The better you can visualise where each chord fragment is coming from, the better you will be able to apply them to your own soloing. We need to know which fragments (children) belong to which of the larger chord forms (parents).
Let me break down the example from above for you:
Chord progression used:
Chord fragments used:
C Am G F
Above, I have matched the fragments with the larger chord forms that they are derived from. I like to think of the larger chord form as the parent and each fragment that relates to it as a child.
Knowing which fragment relates to which chord form, or which child belongs to which parent, is absolutely vital in having the ability to visualise these on your fretboard. This way you will be able to use them in your soloing, in real time, without needing to give it any thought whatsoever.
About the Author:
Simon Candy is from Melbourne, Australia and is a professional guitar instructor and musician. As well as founding and running his own school, Simon Candy School Of Guitar, he also specialises in and offers online lessons for acoustic guitar.